McCoy Tyner

McCoy Tyner Plays John Coltrane at the Village Vanguard

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Wow, here's a first (or so it seems) -- a tribute to sax legend John Coltrane that doesn't include his arrangement of "My Favorite Things." Working with his trio featuring bassist George Mraz and drummer Al Foster at New York's Village Vanguard, the pianist instead chose a mix of well-known Coltrane gems like "Naima" (which begins cool and moody, and then heats up into a booming, improvisational jam and -- dare it be said when talking about traditional jazz? -- funk explosion) and "Afro Blue (in a strolling, slightly melancholy take with Tyner gliding over Foster's swift brushes). "Moment's Notice" is wacky and wild from the start, a primer on the power of freeform and swing; Tyner's improv ability has never been more intensely realized. After that, the 12 minutes of the mid-tempo "Crescent" come as a slight letdown despite some booming low-register chord pounding and an increasingly throbbing bassline. "After the Rain" is a somber interlude, while Billy Eckstine's "I Want to Talk About You" is like a cheerful ray of dancing sunlight after the gloom is gone. Like many great live jazz dates these days, the music was recorded direct to two-track analog tape, with no mixing or editing. The show on September 23, 1997, was to celebrate Coltrane's 71st birthday, and this recording brings listeners so joyfully close that they can almost blow out the candles themselves.

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